The Morning Rush

"You've got to get outside. Now!"

"But my hair isn't even brushed!"

"I don't care. You're going to miss your ride. They have already honked


"I can't go to school like this!"

"You going to have to walk to school if you don't get out the door this minute!"


"Get out there, Molly. You're late!" 

Why does every morning go like this? I know when my daughter's carpool will arrive to pick her up each morning. It's not like friends have decided to surprise me by dropping by unexpectedly. Then I can say, "Sorry the house is such a mess" and I expect them to understand. But when the carpool arrives at the same time every week day nine months a year, I start to feel like maybe we should be able to be ready on time, without madly rushing around yelling at each other. It is not a pleasant way to start the day.

Think this through with me, will you? The carpool picks up my daughter up at 8:00. It usually takes forty-five minutes for us to get dressed, pack lunch, eat breakfast. "But I will be smart," I say to myself, "I'll give us an hour, by setting the alarm for 7:00." I am forgetting about the fact that it takes me about fifteen minutes after the alarm goes off to actually roll out of bed. So I am actually getting up at 7:15. Any type of delay will therefore put us behind schedule and set off a morning panic. 

"Well, I will just have to jump up as soon as the alarm rings," a voice inside my head explains. I know this guy. He's my inner drill sergeant. I make lots of promises to myself, counting on him to discipline me into keeping my resolve. When the time comes, though, I find I hate this guy. He can't get me up. Each morning he becomes a victim of "friendly fire". Fifteen minutes later, I get up. That means if I want to get up at 7:00, I have to set the alarm for 6:45.

"Noooooo!" screams another voice inside my head. It is my inner teenager. I know a lot of people get up much earlier than 6:45 to go to work every day. I have no right to complain. But long ago, when I first looked at becoming an adult, I promised never to be conscious during the "sixes". Not 6:30, not 6:45, not even 6:59. I have broken a lot of vows to myself: I pay taxes, I make my kid wear shoes, and I voted for the lesser of two evils. "But I can't," my inner teenager tells me, "get up before 7:00." It would be "selling out."

Then my inner parent educator starts chiding me. "Are you going to let a teenager run your life? Teenagers may not like limits, but they need

limits. Hold the line. But help your teenager be successful. Give him the help he needs to be able to keep the limits you set." That sounds right, though I wonder how much to charge myself for this advice. And will it work when the teenager is inside you?

To be successful waking up at 6:45 I am going to have to get to sleep eight hours before that. Otherwise, lack of enough sleep will team up with my inner teenager and present a formidable foe. That means I have to go to bed at 10:45. No, that means I have to go to sleep at 10:45. To do that, I have to start getting ready for bed at 10:15.

I like to have at least an hour of down-time after putting Molly to bed. It creates the illusion that I have a life beyond parenting. So if I need to be done putting Molly to bed at 9:15, then we need to start her bedtime at 8:30. There's the problem. Why do we never start her to bed until around 9:00. Her Mom and I have agreed that 8:30 should be her bedtime.

It begins to dawn on me that this all starts with dinner. If we eat at 7:30 then we are not done cleaning up until 8:30. Then there is no time to play before Molly's bedtime. She always protests this, and we always understand and oblige her a deferment on bedtime.

"But," I finally deduce, "if we start dinner at 6:30, then there will be playtime after dinner, and Molly will be ready for bedtime at 8:30. Then I can get to bed on time and be able to wake up at 6:45 and not have to rush in the morning."

I am delighted with myself for having solved the problem. "It all depends on getting dinner ready by 6:30," I remind myself, memorizing this important and hard earned insight.

Then I wonder, "How on earth am I going to get dinner ready by 6:30?"

© 2008 Tim Hartnett

Other Father Issues, Books

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Parents are the bones on which children sharpen their teeth. - Peter Ustinov

Tim Hartnett, MFT is father to Molly at their home in Santa Cruz, CA. Tim also works part time as a writer, psychotherapist and men's group leader. If you have any feedback, or would like to receive the monthly column, "Daddyman Speaks" by Tim Hartnett regularly via email, (free and confidential) send your name and email address to E-Mail Tim Hartnett, 911 Center St. Suite "C", Santa Cruz, CA 95060, 831.464.2922 voice & fax.

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